Start with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, if you haven’t already read them.
Dota 2 is a massive game. Very few people will ever learn everything there is to know about it. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is the number of varied, interesting heroes you can play as. There are 110 heroes to choose from (as of patch 6.85), and the way the game has balanced each of them to serve a specific role within a team is one of the most astonishing things about playing it. One of the reasons people play Dota 2 for thousands of hours is because it never gets old, and the fact that no human being will ever see every possible five-versus-five team lineup is a big part of this.
It’s a testament to the design of the game there isn’t a “bad” hero in the game. On or against the right team, any hero can feel powerful or fun to play. But some heroes are better than others. We’ve ranked every Dota 2 hero in order, from worst to best. We’ve used a patented formula which calculates the quality of every hero using factors such as aesthetic, range of utility, abilities that make you say “wow,” cleverness, and the ever-accurate “fun factor.” This list was compiled after using these and other metrics to create a rubric by which to judge every hero, then moving names around on a Google document. If you have questions or concerns about the nature of this important scientific document, please let us know in the comments below.
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28. Lone Druid: Lone Druid is a character showcasing what separates Dota 2 from all other games of its ilk. Its competitors have simplified many of the intricacies of the genre, having players concentrate on one character and keeping your perspective focused on what your hero does. Dota 2 says "screw that, let's have you control two mostly autonomous characters, and they'll both be bears." The name is a bald-faced lie, since "Lone Druid" is actually two characters, but we'll gloss over that to enjoy having full control of two characters with separate inventories.
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27. Shadow Demon: Shadow Demon is the kind of a hero you play when you want to let your opponents know you're smarter than they are—or that you have a well-oiled team on your side. His abilities don't deal much damage, and his ultimate ability slows the opponent's movement down then deals a small amount of damage. But all of his abilities can set up combos, and his Shadow Poison deals substantial damage if you manage to hit an enemy with it five times in short amount of time. If you happen to do that, it will probably kill them. And you'll feel so smart.
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26. Windranger: Windranger's optimism is infectious. Her dialogue can be encouraging or downright infuriating, depending on the kind of player you are and how you're doing in a particular match. Either way, it helps that her dynamism and energy extend to her play. She can fire a magic arrow at long distance, engulf herself in wind to fend off attack, and focus on a single target to attack at ridiculous speed. Her role over the years has shifted from a supporting to a middle lane role, and it's been a fun transition to watch. No matter what role she plays, though, landing a two-man Shackleshot, which binds enemies with the gall to stand at the right angle to each other, is always satisfying.
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25. Axe: People often describe Axe as "the manliest hero in Dota 2," due to his ability to run up to three or four enemy heroes at once and survive the encounter. This is propaganda. See, Axe has trained to do just that—run up to enemies and use his Counter Helix to win one-on-one fights early in the game. His Berserker's call gives him so much bonus armor that of course he's going to survive. And he instantly kills people when they're down with his Culling Blade. He picks on heroes he knows won't beat him one-on-one, such as weaker supports. Axe isn't manly at all—he's a bully. But I'll admit he's a fun bully to play.
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24. Clinkz: Of all the Dota 2 hero designs fit for a middle schooler's Trapper Keeper, Clinkz is probably the best one. He's got a wonderful mix of the devilish (he's on fire and has sick horns) and the absurd (he's a spooky skeletal archer). He's kind of like a cuter, more pun-heavy version of Ghost Rider. He also has a powerful skillset that lets him focus down a single target or mix it up in fights, picking off stragglers after dealing ridiculous damage in the early game.
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23. Vengeful Spirit: Vengeful Spirit lost her wings after a betrayal and is forced by a goddess to live life in anger. Please take this seriously. In-game, she lives a heady support life, providing a mix of heavy lockdown and team-fighting abilities that make sure everything goes her team's way. She can also instantly swap positions with an enemy hero or ally, which makes for some inspiring escapes and brilliant strategies when mixed with the right team. She's a support hero that's fun to watch—a rarity.
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22. Batrider: Batrider is not only a hero that delivers 100% of what he promises (he's a man who rides a bat), but he's also one of the most rewarding heroes to play. He doesn't do a lot of damage normally; rather, he slathers his opponents in napalm, which increases the damage of all his other fire-based attacks and spells. This gives him a lot of surprise leeway in fights, as enemies don't know just how much napalm they have on them until it's too late. He can also start fights with his Flaming Lasso, which ties an enemy up and lets Batrider lead them around the map for a while. Sure, let's have the man riding a bat also be part cowboy. Why not?
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21. Lycan: Is Lycan actually a lycanthrope, or just a shapeshifter? Well, he can also summon wolves. How does that fit into the lore? No matter what you think he is, Lycan is a powerful, diverse hero who can dive head-first into fights and move incredibly fast in wolf form, or ignore combat altogether and take base objectives when no one is looking, since he can bolster the power of allied units so much that he can destroy buildings faster than the enemy can react. Playing Lycan involves a dynamic push-and-pull, where you're constantly evaluating how much you should engage the enemy, and he's exceedingly well-designed for a hero who doesn't cast spells on enemies.
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20. Legion Commander: I'll admit that how great Legion Commander is as a character is far less important than what she represents: in combat, she's aggressive, pulling out all the stops to chase a single enemy down and challenge them to a duel, the winner of which gains permanent bonus damage. But Legion Commander was a man in the original Dota mod, and became a woman in the switch to Dota 2 to even out the game's gender ratio (which is still pretty bad). She's a woman who's not soft spoken or regal, and takes fights where she wants them to be. That's a powerful statement, but then again, she does have boob armor. So the game has a ways to go.
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19. Dark Seer: Dark Seer combines some of Dota 2's more relaxing and intense aspects seamlessly. You start most games by putting an Ion Shell on one of the many soldiers who march into battle to defend the ancients and letting it sit there, sapping health from the enemies and getting you nearly-free gold. Then, as the game progresses, you're responsible for setting up the Vacuum/Wall of Replica combo, which not only does good damage, but can position the entire enemy team in such a way to set up further spell combos. It's a character design that's survived countless patches, making him useful in most competitive environments throughout the game's history.